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Commentary
February 9, 2017

IS USING WAZE ILLEGAL?

In the last half of 2016, a new law took effect, the Anti-Distracted Driving Law (R.A. 10913). Twenty years ago, mobile (cellular, if you are American) phones became accessible. In the Philippines, mobile phones became widespread when brave telecommunications finally broke their fear of technology. So, with the advent of mobile phones came the accidents. We have seen it happen, we are just lucky that either we are fast with our hands or traffic is so bad, we travel so slow that are eye-hand-foot-brake pedal reflexes are quick enough to make a reaction.

Well, as in all government intervention, the Congress decided to take the law into their own hands or out of it (pun inserted). We now have a law where using your hands could get you arrested. The law was meant to curb the practice of making calls, or text messaging on the mobile phone while driving. The question is now, is using Waze or any other lazy memory driving directions device against the new law? Let’s break it down.

Under the definition of terms in the law, an electronic computed device is any handheld electronic device capable of digital information displaying computed operations. CHECK! You can’t use Waze other than in an electronic computed device.

Also, the law defines mobile communications device as any electronic communications equipment such as cellular phones or similar devices capable of transmitting and receiving encrypted data through wireless electronic means. CHECK! Using Waze is definitely embraced here in the longest definition of a mobile phone with a data plan.

So, now we are through with what devices are covered, let’s deal with what acts are actually illegal. You must remember the law is often written in general terms then dissected by the exemptions.

Under Section 4 of the law, using a mobile communications device to write, send or READ a text-based communication, make or receive calls and other similar acts while in a motor vehicle in motion or temporarily stopped at a traffic light. This is the general rule. The act that is punishable under the law is using, just using. CHECK! Now, let’s look at the exemptions.

Using a mobile communications device while driving will NOT be distracting if done using a hands-free function or similar device without having to hold the mobile communications device (Section 5-a). Furthermore, the law qualifies the hands-free function as lawful if the device is NOT in the line of sight of the driver. NO CHECK.

Wait, just how do we use Waze? If your data plan has a large allowance or your parents pay your phone bill, we use Waze mostly through our ears and sparingly through our hands. We listen where to turn left or turn right. We listen for traffic updates. And depending on which voice we chose, we pretend Waze is a welcome if not entertaining back seat driver.

Thus, using Waze is not illegal if the phone is attached with a hands-free device and the placement is not in the line of sight of the driver. That pretty much sums up 99% of the Waze users. It’s the 1% that uses Waze as if they are reading text messages.

And that’s the Waze it is.

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